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Lessons from the fight against the Mafia for the fight against right-wing extremism

Press Release   •   Nov 10, 2016 09:22 GMT

Berlin, November 10. The Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Echolot e.V. and more organizations call for the re-use of confiscated real estate for local democratic initiatives across Germany. In Italy, the civil re-use of confiscated Mafia properties and assets has proved a useful instrument for the prevention of and fight against organized crime. Whether by organized crime, right-wing extremist groups or outlaw motorcycle clubs, public shared spaces are dominated by intimidation and violence. These “spaces of fear” allow criminal networks to pursue their economic interests and enrich themselves without resistance. The role of real estate assets is decisive – both in the creation of “spaces of fear” and in their dismantling, whereby spaces are given back to neighborhoods and local organizations.

The project “Creating Public Spaces” developed a statement with the goal of extending and improving legal frameworks such that the civil-societal use of confiscated property becomes routine. The statement was made in reference to the current draft in the German parliament (BT Drucksache 18/9525) and calls for the introduction of a legal process following the Italian model in the planned reforms of the criminal asset levy.

Anetta Kahane, Chairperson of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation:

“The experience of violence and assault is also spatial – fear is tied to locations which are avoided as much as possible. When a community is resigned to the fact that neo-Nazis hold sway over certain streets, this threat can cause difficulties for its victims on a daily basis. All are threatened who do not fit the neo-Nazi racist ideal. Refugees, who cannot vote where they live, are therefore particularly defenseless against this danger.”

Publicist Jürgen Roth points to organized networks in view of the increase in violence against minorities:

“To a growing extent, right-wing populist parties in Germany and across Europe are developing ties to mafia-type structures. For example, the Turkish ‘godfather’ Sedat Peker is connected to multiple MPs of the Turkish AKP party as well as the Osmanen Germania motorcycle club—which with 2500 members in Germany alone represents a high potential for violence. Alternatively, the Hungarian president Viktor Orbán received financial help in the 1990s from the Russian Mafia boss Semion Mogilevich, who was also active in Germany.”

He refers here to the example of the Schwarzen Schar (“Black Troop”), a motorcycle club from Wismar, and the possible weapon smuggling of the ‘Ndrangheta to right-wing circles (including, potentially, the National Socialist Underground in Thüringen).

Benno Plassman, chairman of Echolot e.V., urges us to learn from the hard work done against the Mafia in Italy: “Only a strong civil society can truly push back against criminal and hostile movements in society. In Italy, the reuse of confiscated criminal real estate is an immense help – why shouldn’t it exist in Germany too?”

The chairman of the anti-‘Ndrangheta Commission in the state parliament of Calabria, Consigliere Arturo Bova, recommended this strategy from his own experience. “The structures of criminal organizations must be fought, ideally through the simultaneous strengthening of civil society and the reuse of confiscated real estate. We can see many places in Calabria where “spaces of fear” were dismantled in this manner.”

Conference, November 10th-11th

From November 10th to 11th 2016, the closing conference of the EU-supported project Creating Public Spaces will take place in the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and Humboldt University Berlin. On Thursday, November 10th, three workshops will discuss the positive experiences in Italy and the question of how they can be transferred to other countries. On Friday, November 11th, the concluding conference will take place in the great auditorium of Humboldt University, Under den Linden 6; the results of the workshops as well as the results of the entire project will be presented and discussed with politicians and activists from Germany and Italy.

Public Hearing for Law Draft

The official hearing for the drafting of the reform of criminal asset seizure in the German Parliament (BT Drucksache 18/9525) takes place on the 23rd of November, 2016. Prof. Martin Heger, chair for Criminal Justice, Trial Law, European Criminal Justice and Recent Legal History at Humboldt University Berlin, involved as a partner of Creating Public Spaces, has been nominated as an official expert for the hearing.

Creating Public Spaces

The event is part of the EU-supported project “Creating Public Spaces – best practices in the re-use of confiscated property”, a collaboration between the state government of Calabria, Italy; the association “Antigone – Osservatorio sulla ‘ndrangheta” of Reggio Calabria; Echolot – Projects for Civil Society, against Mafia, e.V., of Berlin; the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, of Berlin; and the associated project partners, Humboldt University of Berlin (Prof. Martin Heger as chair) and the University Roma Tre “La Sapienza”.

For further questions and interview requests:

Benno Plassman | b.plassmann(at) |

Since its founding in 1998, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has sought to strengthen democratic civil society and oppose right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism in all their forms.

For further inquiries, please contact Sofia Vester | 030 240 886 16 |

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